A Day with Edible Plants

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A feast of eye-catching and delicious vegetables and herbs are set to feed the ‘grow-your-own’ trend during the 2017 Bedford Garden Festival.

‘Edible gardens are increasingly popular and we are going to maintain our position ahead of the trend,’ said festival committee chairman Bryan Knox when he announced the 2017 Garden Festival programme. ‘We aim to inspire all our visitors to start planting as soon as they get home.’

Twelve years ago, Kim van Niekerk had predicted the trend and pioneered decorative edible gardening at Albertvale farm. She freely combines culinary and medicinal herbs, edible flowers, aromatic plants, fruit and vegetables in a sprawling green oasis out on the Bedford plains. This garden is open throughout the festival (also offering a salad bar lunch on 20 and 21 October, with Cooke’s Garden workshops on 23 and 24 October.

 More recently, Barbara Church’s extensive vegetable garden at Donkerhoek farm has won hearts and minds. Barbara has hens, turkeys and a cow to help convert spare plant matter into compost and provide eggs, milk cream etc for the kitchen. (Open and serving scones with jam and cream and good teas and coffees on 20, 21 and 22 October)

Last year saw the debut of The Chef’s Garden at the Duke of Bedford Inn - a large productive culinary garden immediately below the hotel’s courtyard. The beauty of edible plants is a strong message here.

The Caltex Backyard Foodfarm (going into its third year) pops up for 2017 in the yard of a historic cottage lower down in the hotel courtyard. It is a compact demo ‘foodfarm’ designed to inspire and guide aspirant urban ‘farmers’ who do not have access to a lot of space. A range of ideas and know-how for creating an attractive and productive mini food garden are shared via one-to-one advice, mini demos and clear interpretive signs and posters.

The new demo garden will be ready well in advance of the festival and interest groups can be hosted from the beginning of October. Special activities for learners have been developed and members of the Bedford Township Garden route will be invited for an information-sharing session. The whole of the cottage veranda will be transformed into an interpretive centre with samples and posters, plant and seed sales ... and good coffee. Both this and the Chef’s Garden are managed by ‘Spirit of the Garden’, a project by Cathy Knox.

Extensive salad and vegetable beds at the Upcycled Garden supply the restaurant at Eagle Hout Padstal with fresh produce. This is also the ops centre for the Township Open Gardens project which includes 50 gardeners this year. To qualify as a member of the project and share the many benefits, each gardener must include edible plants in his/her garden.

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